Marco Estrada has a well deserved reputation as a pop-up artist. Since joining the Blue Jays in 2015, no qualified pitcher has a higher pop-up rate on balls in play than Estrada's 7.3% (using FanGraphs' classifications). But tonight Estrada truly outdid himself.
Coming into tonight's game, Estrada's career high for pop-ups in a single game was six, against Boston on June 5, 2016. Tonight, he nearly doubled that, getting 11 of the 23 Twins batters who put the ball in play to pop-up, seven of those in foul territory. Except for Eddie Rosario, every other batter popped out at least once. Three times he got two pop-outs in an inning, and in the 4th popped out the side (the Marco Estrada Hat Trick?) to finish a run of five straight batters popped out.
So Marco was in rare form tonight, and spun an absolute gem despite allowing a couple home runs. Rosario got the first hit of the game off him on a 3-1 fastball leading off the 5th inning, and Eduardo Escobar took him deep leading off the 8th after a long layoff on a 1-1 changeup. Other than, he allowed just a ground ball single and a walk over his 8 innings.
In between, the middle of the order provided ample run support. Josh Donaldson was the catalyst, with four hits. He both opened and closed the scoring with home runs. In the 1st inning, he turned around an elevated fastball from Adalberto Meija and hit a no-doubter. In the 9th, he added another solo shot.
After the first home run, Meija set down eight straight, until Donaldson came back up and singled leading off the 4th. Justin Smoak doubled him in, and then a pair of ground ball singles by Jose Bautista and Kendrys Morales (who beat out an infield single!) made it 3-0. But that was it for the inning, and for a good while.
The Jays added insurance runs in the top of the 8th, thanks to some pretty good breaks. Ezequiel Carrera led off with an infield single, followed by another Donaldson single on a ground ball. Donaldson stole second, and thus Smoak got intentionally walked. Bautista worked a 2-0 count, at which point Brian Dozier shifted to the other side of second.
Bautista hit a pop-up that would have normally been an easy play for a second baseman, but it dropped instead, and was kicked to allow a second run to score. Morales then followed him by hitting a ground ball to the left side, normally a routine double play ball for the shortstop. But again, the shift was on and it went through for a RBI single. In another universe, the Twins get out of the inning without allowing a run.
That would have made it a tighter situation when Estrada allowed the second home run, and for sure it wouldn't have been Matt Dermody in the 9th. As it was, with a five run lead in a meaningless game, Roberto Osuna AND Carlos Ramirez started warming after he allowed a leadoff double (that was stranded). One of them? Fine. Two? Why?
Jays of the Day: Estrada (+0.357 WPA), Donaldson (0.184), Bautista (0.106), Smoak (0.092).
No Suckage, though Kevin Pillar, Russell Martin, Darwin Barney, Richard Urena and Teoscar Hernandez all had 0-fers.
Tomorrow, The Jays will look to take the series behind Joe Biagini opposed by Kyle Gibson at 2:10 EDT.